to travel more than seven thousand miles, and now he was going to have to kill
hotel at the American Naval base in Bahrain.
Sergeant Connor Button wanted was to find a bed and crash for a few hours.
some idiot striking out with a hot blonde and not taking it well.
tried to bring her closer. “Aw, come on, sweetheart.”
across the short distance. “No.”
dude, time to retreat. Only, the guy didn’t. He grabbed her by the back of
the neck, hard enough to make her gasp in pain, and leaned down, his mouth
aimed for hers.
didn’t get that hint either, just grabbed her hand and twisted it behind her
for a second. One second, so he could throttle back the instinct to beat the
stupid fuck to death.
His jaw flexed. He wouldn’t kill the asshole, but he could hurt him real bad.
and stomped toward the woman and the moron whose arm he was about to break.
attention. He glanced up, saw Con coming and his eyes went wide. He let go of
the woman so fast she wobbled off balance and fell to the floor. Con stopped to
help her while the moron ran like a track star down the hall and around a
to the woman. “Are you okay?”
at him with eyes that didn’t miss a thing. She scooted away, leaving his hand
hanging in the air, then stood. Her shoulders went back and her chin rose.
interested in another man getting all up in her business. He’d make sure she
was all right, then he’d back off.
framed by white-blond hair hanging in a sheet down to the middle of her back.
She was also stacked, though she wasn’t showing it off. She was following
military clothing requirements, wearing long pants and a collared shirt one
size too big, buttoned up to her neck. An asshole had just tried to sexually
assault her, but Con would bet a year’s pay that had he not come along, the
moron would have had his hands full with a pissed-off female trying to smash
his balls into paste.
angry line, but her hands were shaking.
something other than anger or despair slammed into him.
on adrenaline and looking for a target.
his mouth to make some inane comment or other to show her he was no threat, but
she raised a hand to stop him.
you.” And then she was gone, inside the room closest to her. The click of the
lock being engaged echoed down the hall.
wasn’t sure she was okay, but those shaking hands and that locked door sent a
pretty clear signal that she didn’t want another man anywhere near her.
checked his room number again and discovered he was next door to the blonde.
if Moron came back.
any noise that might indicate a problem in the room next door, but it had been
church-quiet. He got up at 0700 base time, then went in search of his new
commanding officer, Colonel Maximillian. The man had an interesting reputation,
but he trusted what his buddy, Jacob “Sharp” Foster, a former Special Forces
soldier, had to say about him. Everyone else said the colonel was one bullet
shy of a magazine. Sharp had warned him that the colonel wasn’t exactly regular
army, but he gave a shit about his people, and that was number one for Con. If
your CO had your six, at least you didn’t have to take your attention off what
was coming at you.
didn’t exist on the base, according to official records. Officially, the lab
that did exist on paper was rated for level two containment. Good enough to run
the sort of tests any big city hospital conducted. In reality, the lab was
capable of level four containment testing. The stuff you needed to wear a
bio-suit for and breathe your own oxygen supply.
internal checkpoints to gain entry to the nondescript building that was his
destination. Colonel Maximillian’s office was the first one inside the prefab
rectangle that housed the lab and offices. A soldier who didn’t look a day over
sixteen sat typing on a computer facing the entrance to the building.
uniform, then he stood and saluted. “Private Eugene Walsh.”
expecting you.” Walsh extended his hand in the direction of the first office.
“Go right in.”
into the office.
salt-and-pepper-haired man, who stood and saluted back. “Sir, Sergeant Button
reporting for duty.”
came around his desk and offered his hand.
released a hand that hadn’t tested him beyond what would be considered polite.
gesturing at one of the chairs facing his desk. “I’d like to go over your
assignment and answer any questions you might have.”
adopted a neutral body posture, back straight and hands resting lightly on his
thighs. It was harder than it should have been.
Middle East he’d been deployed with his unit, attempting to ascertain the
military strength of two groups of extremists in Northern Iraq and Syria. Both
groups had threatened multiple American and allied targets, as well as calling
for sympathetic citizens to carry out terrorist acts inside their own
Middle East, he’d been the only survivor of an IED that took out their vehicle.
Fortune had smiled on him that day. He’d been thrown clear.
hadn’t been so lucky.
stare at him and seemed content to not say anything for several moments.
man who’d waited days for just the right moment to take a shot at his target.
much do you know about your mission here?”
“Sharp said you were smart. Are you, Sergeant Button?”
definition of smart.”
able to see unusual relationships between people and information.”
Holmes. He’s a fictional character.”
face. “How would you describe yourself?”
lowered over his eyes. “Were you aware General Stone had some reluctance in
assigning you to this mission?”
had he had recently? Five, six? “Sir, I received injuries in an attack that
killed all the men in the armored vehicle with me. I’d be surprised if he
wasn’t hesitant.” No officer wanted to have a suicidal or homicidal soldier on
a mission. Survivor’s guilt could lead to either one. Or both.
was in a man’s head. What was in his head was not pretty, and not to be shared.
country. My service isn’t done.”
side. “That is one of the best non-answers I’ve ever heard.”
it. Con leaned forward and said in a less civilized tone, “I got thrown off
the horse. I need to get back on and finish my ride.”
thought can’t be in my head.”
inquisitiveness for a moment, replaced by a surprising level of comprehension.
A second later it was gone and he was flipping through pages on his desk.
“You’ve had some problems with your temper since you returned to duty.”
easy. Acting on it was even easier.
couple more seconds, then nodded briskly. “My Biological Response Team is
tracking a very dangerous man who’s created his own extremely deadly strain of
anthrax. We managed to prevent an attack on a base in Afghanistan, but not
before nearly one hundred people died of the infection. We think he’s not done.
We think he’ll continue to strike at high-quality American or allied targets,
and we don’t know where he is or where he will attack next.”
homicidal nutcase wasn’t the sort of duty he’d taken on before, but it sounded
successful in preventing the last attack because we had one of our infectious
disease specialists embedded with an A-team training members of the Afghan
military. General Stone agrees with me—until this man is found, we need more
cooperation between my team and army Special Forces. I asked for specific men
to work with my people. Men who are not only well trained and smart, but also
creative and who can take a step back and support his teammate or take charge
of a situation if that’s what’s needed. Jacob Foster says you’re that kind of
man. Are you?”
enemy, with a face and a name, rather than a faceless one who could be anybody.
The need to kill, to avenge his dead, was a relentless voice in the back of his
head. This mission could get him the opportunity to give himself that, and
maybe a measure of peace.
to come on too strong. If he lost this chance, he might not get another. “I’m a
team player. That means I’ll play whatever role is needed by the team.”
mind working with a woman?”
possibility I’d be paired with a woman.” Man, woman, two-headed alien, he
didn’t care as long as they shared a common enemy.
the hell? While he might smack down a fellow Special Forces soldier, he’d never lay a hand on a woman.
children with four older sisters. Working with or for a woman is nothing new to
don’t mean to sound paranoid, but the doctor you’re going to be working with is
the wrong description. She doesn’t trust…people. I’ve been trying to find a
suitable partner for her, but I’ve been unsuccessful.”
young woman who looks as if she’d have trouble with breaking a nail. Coddle her
in any way and she’ll find a way to make you miserable.”
cold. “So why me?”
challenging combat situations and I think that will give you a level of
experience she’ll respect.”
of his voice. “I’m not going to sit around the campfire telling her war stories.”
What he’d seen wouldn’t instill confidence in anyone.
best with people who are highly competent, who don’t brag or try to impress.”
on his ability to keep his trap shut.
young, she’s a genius and she has absolutely no idea how to talk to anyone who
isn’t a scientist or doctor.”
people. “Genius, as in graduated from medical school really young?”
youngest physician in the USA to have a double speciality in virology and
could work with that. “So, work is her life, and before that, it was school?”
married to a physicist. He speaks math, and we get along just fine.”
“You speak math?”
has something to say about properly grilling a steak.”
Time to meet her.” He stepped out of his office and led the way down a hall.
“Oh, and call me Max. It’s shorter.”
a key and preceded Con inside.
office and part lab, with a couple of desks and two tall microscopes set up on
the end of each. Papers and boxes of slides littered both surfaces. Only one of
the desks was occupied.
lens of one of the microscopes. Her hair was white-blond and pulled back into a
severe bun. She wore an army uniform with a lab coat over top. When she saw
Max, she pushed away from the scope, stood and moved to meet them.
her hair pulled back, she could have passed for even younger than twenty-four.
gorgeous. He took that thought, hog-tied it and shoved it into a dark
corner. His personal mission left no room for anything beyond a professional
someone’s head off.
new partner, Communications Sergeant Connor Button.” He turned to Con. “Connor,
this is Captain Sophia Perry.” Her mouth, pressed into a thin line, convinced
him to pretend last night hadn’t happened. He nodded at her respectfully. “Good
to meet you, ma’am.”
arms over her chest and displaying a huge bruise on her right hand.
me, Max? A fossil?”
he’d let her win this bout. Con managed to keep a straight face and said in a
hesitant voice, “I’m only twenty-nine.”
with someone who follows all the
rules and regulations?” Max asked her, irritation showing in his rigid posture.
“This guy—” he pointed a thumb at Con “—hates inside-the-box thinking as much
as you do.”
full in the face. A challenge. Why was she so pissed off? Because she didn’t
think she needed a babysitter?
chuckle. If he laughed now, she’d think he was laughing at her. “I don’t like
boxes. They’re never big enough, and they’re too…square.”
her gaze. “What did you do to draw this duty? It had to have been bad.”
didn’t want to escalate things, so he spoke first, and went with the
unvarnished truth. “I got blown up. I spent almost seven months in hospitals
and physical therapy. The last three or four months I’ve been instructing and getting
back into shape.” He smiled at her. “When I found out what my first mission was
going to be, bodyguarding some army doctor, I thought what the fuck? I sure as shit didn’t want easy duty. But having talked with Max here, I’ve changed my mind.”
He shifted his gaze to Max’s face. “This isn’t easy duty, is it, sir?”
weapon attack somewhere in this part of the world, it’s when.”
Dr. Perry, is it?”
forth between Con and Sophia. “We have intel that points to the Biological
Response Team as a specific target. I don’t want you to just protect Sophia, I
need you two to be a team. All of us are being paired with Special Forces
soldiers, even myself.”
idea of it made the back of his neck itch.
Beret were nearly killed in a trap I believe was set for them. We have an enemy
who is intelligent, ruthless and fearless.”
this guy?” Con asked.
for you in an hour or two.” Max turned to him. “Have you been assigned
room next to Sophia’s.”
mouth to say something unpleasant—he was sure from the way she’d screwed up her
nose—which is why Con spoke first again. “Are you sure that’s necessary?” He
looked down, like he was thinking hard. “Do you want to advertise to the whole
base that I’m her bodyguard, or would you like to keep it below the radar?”
side are you on?”
impatient edge to his voice. “I’ll check to see where you’re housed now. If
it’s not too far, you can stay where you are.” Max pressed his lips together,
glared at them both, then stomped off.
went back to her microscope. “Nice attempt to come to my rescue. Again. But I
don’t need anyone to rescue me.”
the moron. To prevent fear and anger from getting too deep a hold on her brain.
happened, the human mind had a way of warping events so the memory of them
seemed to take a thousand times longer than the reality had.
for how three seconds of hell could totally screw up the rest of a man’s life.
her mental state, when he’d done his level best to keep the shrinks out of his.
Right now, he just had to convince her he was on her side. He wanted this assignment. “I know.”
into something sharp and heavy. “You just met me. How would you know that?”
expression on her face was a mixture of anger, fear and disgust. A second
later, it was gone, smoothed away as if it had never been there.
What was that?
“Babysitting me is going to be a complete bore for a soldier’s soldier like
you. I’ll tell Max to find someone else.”
Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/17506509-lethal-game-by-julie-rowe
Julie Rowe’s first career as a medical lab technologist in Canada took her to the North West Territories and northern Alberta, where she still resides. She loves to include medical details in her romance novels, but admits she’ll never be able to write about all her medical experiences because, “No one would believe them!”.
In addition to writing contemporary and historical medical romance, and fun romantic suspense for Entangled Publishing and Carina Press, Julie has short stories in Fool’s Gold, the Mammoth Book of ER Romance, Timeless Keepsakes and Timeless Escapes anthologies. Her book SAVING THE RIFLEMAN (book #1 WAR GIRLS) won the novella category of the 2013 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. AIDING THE ENEMY (book #3 WAR GIRLS) won the novella category of the 2014 Colorado Romance Writer’s Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in several magazines such as Romantic Times Magazine, Today’s Parent, and Canadian Living.